“The Right Stuff,” a new television series adapted from Tom Wolfe’s iconic account of the early days of the U.S. space program, will start filming this fall on the Space Coast.
Leonardo DiCaprio will be one of the executive producers of “The Right Stuff.” Appian Way Productions, a film and television production company founded by DiCaprio, is collaborating on the project with National Geographic Partners LLC and Warner Horizon Scripted Television.
A number of films and episodes of reality television shows have been filmed on the Space Coast in recent years. But Space Coast Film Commissioner Bonnie King believes “The Right Stuff” will be the first television series filmed in Brevard County since “The Cape,” a space-themed series which aired in in 1996 and 1997, and had among its stars Adam Baldwin and Corbin Bernsen.
King said she got confirmation recently that “The Right Stuff” would film here and in the Orlando area, although many details are still being worked out.
King said she is pleased that the Space Coast was selected as a filming location, since “this is where it all happened. It’s the right thing to do for ‘The Right Stuff.'”
Having a television series filmed here will provide a boost to the local economy, both in terms of jobs and in spending at local hotels, restaurants and stores. And it could have a spinoff tourism effect, as people come to the area to see the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and other locales depicted in the show.
In announcing that it was green-lighting the project, National Geographic described “The Right Stuff” as taking “a clear-eyed, non-nostalgic look at the lives of these ambitious astronauts and their families, who became instant celebrities in a competition that would either kill them or make them immortal.”
“The first season, which uses the book as its starting point, takes place at the height of the Cold War in 1958, when the Soviets are dominating the space race,” National Geographic said. “The public is in fear of a nation in decline, so the U.S. government conceives of a solution — NASA’s Project Mercury — creating the country’s premier astronauts from a handful of the military’s adrenaline-junkie test pilots. Seven individuals, known as the Mercury 7, are plucked from obscurity and soon forged into heroes long before they have achieved a single heroic act.”
Season 1 will have a focus on the drama as “two archrivals — John Glenn and Alan Shepard — jockey to be the first in space.”
Details on the cast, production schedule and specific filming locations have not been announced.
King said she has been working with the production team over a period of months in scouting potential sites to film the show.
King also is president of Film Florida, a not-for-profit trade association representing the film, television and digital media industries, as well as deputy director of the Space Coast Office of Tourism.
Mark Lafferty, who will be an executive producer and “show-runner” leading the development of the series, said in a statement that “The Right Stuff” is “about a moment when the country looked in the same direction to achieve the stuff of fantasy, and on a timeline that was nearly impossible. The story is a reminder of what we’re capable of, but it also shows how much we’ve changed and diversified over time.”
Carolyn Bernstein, executive vice president for global scripted content and documentary films for National Geographic, said the stories of the Mercury 7 astronauts depicted in Wolfe’s 1979 bestseller “are engaging, provocative and timeless. The book’s narrative aligns perfectly with the qualities that we look for in scripted projects: fact-based, wildly entertaining and pushing the limits of human achievement.”
The premiere episode of “The Right Stuff” will have as its director and executive producer David Nutter, whose credits include “Game of the Thrones” and “Band of Brothers.”
National Geographic said subsequent seasons of “The Right Stuff” will carry through to the Apollo space program, where humankind saw one of its greatest achievements in 1969 — man setting foot on the moon — and missions beyond.
The Space Coast this year is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, the first to land astronauts on the moon.
DiCaprio has movie ties to the Space Coast, too.
Playing a supporting role alongside Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton in “Marvin’s Room,” the Academy Award-winning actor filmed scenes here more than 20 years ago.
Shortly after his role in “Titanic” made him a global superstar, DiCaprio visited the Space Coast to watch John Glenn become the oldest man in space.
Wolfe’s book also was the basis of a 1983 film by the same name whose cast included Ed Harris (playing astronaut John Glenn), Dennis Quaid (astronaut Gordon Cooper) and Sam Shepard (test pilot Chuck Yeager).
Film Florida says Florida has lost more than $1 billion in potential business to other states because Florida no longer has production incentives for the film and television industry.
Within Brevard County, among the losses Film Florida cites involving space-themed films and television series are $25 million for “Astronaut Wives Club,” $16 million for “Cocoa Beach,” $10 million for “First Man” and $10 million for “Hidden Figures.”